I know today is some Rabbit Hole day thing on LJ, but I want to write about something else.
Today is also the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The rabbit hole is a fun idea, but…this is more important to me than escaping into a made-up world. The real world needs to be looked at today.
When I backpacked through Europe in the summer of '95, I spent weeks riding trains, walking, and exploring new cities, smells, tastes, and people. My traveling partner, Paolo, was a geek for art and architecture, and we spent many hours in various churches, staring at murals, marble and other marvels. Only once did Paolo weaken, touching a mural painted by a master, against all rules. "I couldn't help it!" he whined over beers and dinner. We ate sparsely, saving our money for the public transit of Paris, Barcelona, Munich, Rome, Florence and beyond. We met other people from around the world. Long time readers know I had a whirlwind romance on this trip with a gorgeous boy from New Zealand. That happened in Munich. Indeed, Munich was a pivotal stop for us on our days of traveling, Cranberries tunes and bread and cheese. Munich was also where we paused from the art, music, and hostel-hopping and visited Dachau.
I am not Jewish. I am half-German. Neither of these things had any bearing on a decision to go to Dachau. It wasn't on the itinerary we constructed late at night on a train bound for Paris. We had planned to only spend one day in Munich, but we felt Dachau was something we had to do.
The Dachau Concentration Camp officially opened on Wednesday, March 22, 1933. The lists of how many were killed there vary from twenty-six thousand to over two hundred thousand.
Paolo and I visited on a grey, gloomy day. By the entrance now is a piece of metal sculpture. It was such an extreme contrast, art in this place of death. I wasn't sure if I should take a photo of it or not. While it held the spirit to overcome…it wouldn't exist if Dachau hadn't existed.
There were no displays of shoes, shorn hair, or other sober signs of how much had been lost. Barracks had been restored, but there were rooms of photos, there was a crematorium, which was an oven built to burn many bodies at once. Gas chambers exist at Dachau, and it is stated that they were only used to fumigate clothing and other items due to disease, not for killing, there is no definite assurance of this fact, and some evidence exists that refutes this claim.
The grass outside along the sides of the grounds was so green, with trees on the outsides of the wire fences. Yet the place was permeated with a sense of despair, and frankly horror. Civilised humans had built this. And as much as I wanted to believe it was all in the past, done, finished, it still existed right in front of me. Where I stood, people died. Where I rummaged for my water bottle and sat staring at the sky, thousands suffered. Our trip had been a time of joy and exploration until we reached Dachau, and then it turned dark for a day. Exploration, yes. Joy, no.
It took us at least a day to return to good spirits. We sat glumly with wine that evening, our minds and hearts heavy with what we had seen, but very much in agreement that we had chosen rightly in going.
Dachau was in Germany, Auschwitz is in Poland. But today is an important day to keep grounded in, and remember, and think upon. Liberation is wonderful, but one must be enslaved to be freed. The story of the Holocaust must never be forgotten, cloaked in dust as an event of an earlier, unenlightened time. Their numbers dwindle, but suvivors still live.This is recent news, and never, ever, should be dismissed as ancient history, or beyond the realm of modern human possibility.